Completely hidden foundation

Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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I’m curious how you wise and experienced folks deal with this problem:


Seventy year old house is in good condition. Floors are flat. No apparent cracks in walls or ceiling. All windows and doors true and operable.

Basement is newly finished. Tile floors. Firred walls. Ceiling and ductwork covered. No apparent moisture problems....but its new.

Exterior has new vinyl siding that extends down to or below grade.


So the problem is I cannot see the tiniest bit of the foundation. The house looks good.....but a world of problems could be hidden behind the basement firring and the vinyl siding.

How do you proceed with your inspection? How do you write up a foundation you can't inspect? I hate to just write it up as 'inaccessable'. I want some magic that will allow me to get a better idea of the foundation.

My tendency would be to do some digging and see what I can find.....maybe get a scope into a wall or two.......maybe just say 'from what I can see everything looks ok.....but I can't see very much, and much might be hidden." It sure is unsatisfying to not be unable to see the da** foundation!

OK give me some wisdom.....


Originally Posted By: dedwards
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Originally Posted By: Mark Anderson
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Not alot you can do…from the outside,especially if the ‘siding is below ground??’ yikes! you can usually notice a bow in a wall from standing at one end/corner and looking across towards other end,in fact some bowed walls are quite visible from the street,look down the drive-side wall and you`ll notice sometimes.


or,if you have a lil extra energy-time on an inspection(lolol ![icon_lol.gif](upload://zEgbBCXRskkCTwEux7Bi20ZySza.gif) ,many HI wont like this!)...when you get there, run a hose towards the Bsmt wall,a few inches away from the top of the wall,and let the hose run full blast from ground level down. If your normal inspection takes 3 hours, you can run the water against each wall for what....45 minutes each....to recreate a good rain to see if there is/are cracks etc in the basement wall(s). If there is a crack below ground you will see water begin to enter on the bsmt floor.

Again...i gather many will not want-like to do this for variety of reasons. The homeowner may not like that idea...can`t do it in midwest/north in winter...your gonna get a bit muddy when moving the hose around(aww) etc etc etc. But you asked... OK, start the moaning process,gl


--
The Real reasons basements leak

Originally Posted By: dvalley
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If this were my inspection…I would recommend that the siding be cut back at least 8 inches from grading. That siding at grading will be the perfect area for those damn termites to stay moist, build their mud tunnels right up to the sill area, and start chomping on the house. Not a good situation.


Siding (doesn't matter what material) should never be installed at or behind grading. Unless of course, they don't mind having those tiny little wood destroyers as pets.![](upload://2BVvLTPJwIG9tW02CFM65MGHMTF.gif)


--
David Valley
MAB Member

Massachusetts Certified Home Inspections
http://www.masscertified.com

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

Originally Posted By: roconnor
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There is no magic answer, unless you are willing to go beyond the scope of a typical home inspection, and take on additional liability. Be crystal clear about components that can not be readily observed, and the potential for hidden problems and defects.


In addition, any newly finished space is an automatic concern in my book, as that would cover up any visual signs of problems ... and may have actually been done to hide defects.

Just my opinion and 2-nickels ... ![icon_wink.gif](upload://ssT9V5t45yjlgXqiFRXL04eXtqw.gif)


--
Robert O'Connor, PE
Eagle Engineering ?
Eagle Eye Inspections ?
NACHI Education Committee

I am absolutely amazed sometimes by how much thought goes into doing things wrong

Originally Posted By: rcloyd
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Siding should never be installed less than 6" above the finished grade line.


I would note this as a deficiency and state in my report that this installation may hide defects.


Regards,


--
Russell G. Cloyd
Intra-Spec Home Inspections
& Code Consulting, LLC
859-586-4591
www.intra-spechomeinspections.com

Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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Thanks for all that feedback. This is a great resource:


Siding @ grade is a defect. (Just took my SPI test, which is a requirement in Washington State now) The termite issue is very real here as David suggests.....regardless of the type of siding.

The newly finished space is in fact a 'concern' (good word) as Robert suggests. It clearly was done without permits.

I think I'll 'pass' on Mark's suggestion to simulate a downpour. But I get the point....and am in the process of reading your extensive thread.

" Be crystal clear about components that can not be readily observed, and the potential for hidden problems and defects. " I get it. Thanks Doug and Mark.....I like the line of sight idea, exterior at grade, along the edge of the foundation....to check for bows. (This being 'crystal clear' stuff reminds me of the way I have written my remodelling contracts for years and years, saved my a$$ many times.


Again, I really appreciate the feedback, points all well taken.
Thanks, Ed


Originally Posted By: mkober
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I inspected a place outside of Albuquerque a few years back that had a similar situation–brand spankin’ new finished basement wall and freshly painted floor–but only one wall. The situation outside above that wall was the tip-off, where a bunch of freshly-moved soil still couldn’t hide the negative foundation grading that was letting water down to saturate the mainly cohesive fines against the wall–which we later learned had cracked and bowed the wall. My client’s realtor did a little digging (not literally!) to find out what the seller had done his best to hide.



Michael J. Kober, P.E. and H.I.


"NACHI Member and Proud Of It!"

Originally Posted By: jhugenroth
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Ed,


Is it a full or partial basement? I have yet to see a basement without a crawlspace access. How about foundation vents? Sometimes I can see a little with my 10,000,000 candle power spotlight shining into a vent.


Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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Joseph,


The original portion of the house has a full basement. An early addition has a crawlspace. I managed to squeeze through a tiny opening to get to this crawlspace…about 15’x15’; no vapor barrier, dirt up to the bottom-plate on the original foundation, no insulation, no ventilation.


The house was very level and plumb. I noted this in my report as an indication that the foundation was sound, but 'howevered' that it was impossible to tell for sure without actually seeing the foundation....which I never got a good look at. There were a bunch of other problems with the basement that were the result of idiots-remodelling. Some other time I'll dredge the pics up for a good laugh.


Originally Posted By: dbowers
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Ed -


Unless you have a suicidal tendency combined with an intense desire to open yourself up to incresed liability - state exactly what is there. As a typical example of a BRIEF statement:

The basement was 100% finished, and the foundation and related support system, framing, etc were not visible for inspection or analysis. Nothing is known of the presence or absence of any defects at inaccessible areas. If this is of concern to the buyer we recommend further evaluation, which may require destructive analysis and intrusion by others.

Then shut your mouth and get out of Dodge.


Originally Posted By: tallen
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dbowers wrote:
Ed -

Unless you have a suicidal tendency combined with an intense desire to open yourself up to incresed liability - state exactly what is there. As a typical example of a BRIEF statement:

The basement was 100% finished, and the foundation and related support system, framing, etc were not visible for inspection or analysis. Nothing is known of the presence or absence of any defects at inaccessible areas. If this is of concern to the buyer we recommend further evaluation, which may require destructive analysis and intrusion by others.

Then shut your mouth and get out of Dodge.



Wise man you are. ![icon_cool.gif](upload://oPnLkqdJc33Dyf2uA3TQwRkfhwd.gif)


--
I have put the past behind me,
where , however, it now sits, making rude remarks.

www.whiteglovehomeinspections.net

30 Oct 2003-- 29 Nov2005

Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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Dan,


Well SHUT MY MOUTH!!

I have copied your BRIEF statement and pasted it in my 'good bits of wisdom file'. I have no doubt I will use some variation of it many times.

I take your note to mean that I would have been wise to avoid ANY statement about the structure 'appearing sound'......even though the floors of this 81 year old building were quite flat, no bowed walls, plaster intact in the usual places were it cracks if some settlement has occurred.

Would you mention observing a flat floor or operable and true original double-hungs, or nicely preserved plaster? Oh, right.....I don't reallly KNOW if the windows were original do I?......maybe they were re-built and the plaster repaired.

Don't get me wrong....I understand your point about suicide and liability. Its too bad that we have to be so careful......but the finger DOES get pointed in our direction when the news is bad, sometimes even when we have accurately described the defect.

I'll bet you have a whole garden full of great, brief verbage. Can I look you up the next time I'm tempted to Spout Off?


Originally Posted By: Mark Anderson
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add…Sometimes with a brick house youll notice a vertical crack or a step crack in the brick which starts at brick ledge/ground level & continues on up/over...from what ive seen about 75% of the time when this occurs the basement wall is also cracked at or very near where the vertical crack begins at ground level.


also, as Mike said about top soil, look for a cove or bead of tar/silicone/concrete along drive or patio...where driveway meets the house. This is one of the great G Haege "Topography" tips. Yeah...a few people/homeowners will say they did this for preventive maintenace but Most are doing this because they do indeed have a seepage problem in basement and dont want to spend the cash to fix the problem correctly!

http://www.bobvila.com/ArticleLibrary/Task/Inspecting/FoundationFailure.html
Read last paragraph!
many people around here have had cracks occur in their wall(s) or major shifting-movement when the city hires contractor to tear up and redo street.


--
The Real reasons basements leak

Originally Posted By: dvalley
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Quote:
no vapor barrier, dirt up to the bottom-plate on the original foundation, no insulation, no ventilation.


You mentioned earlier that the siding was buried in dirt, now you mention the above.

Do you inspect for WBI's? If not, did you mention these warning signs in your report about how grading at or above the sill is a path for Termite infestation?

If I see this situation, and I fail to locate a termite infestation or signs of it, my report will still reflect what I see as a forthcoming issue.


--
David Valley
MAB Member

Massachusetts Certified Home Inspections
http://www.masscertified.com

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

Originally Posted By: dedwards
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What I have found over the years of doing this is to avoid stating the obvious positive elements of a home and concentrate on the discrepancies. When you go on about how “good, superior, excellent” something is and later it turns out not to be so you have opened yourself up for the eventual backlash. I hardily believe in the axe “Keep it simple, stupid” If you tend to get too flowery in your praises of a piece of property your enthusiasm can become infectous and blind the buyer. I strive to stay objective, emotionless about the property. Kind of like the plumber who comes to clean out your clogged sewer. You don’t see him getting excited or praising the workmanship of the previous plumber. It is okay to be positive and upbeat but learn to temper that with cool objectivity. And once again, take lots of pictures for your files. You don’t have to share all of them with the customer, some are just for your peace of mind.


Doug


Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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David,


Regarding dirt touching the sill: This dirt that is up against the sill is on the inside of the foundation. (look back a couple of posts) The defeciencies with this crawlspace were noted in the report. That was easy.

Doug.

Your comments about avoiding "stating the obvious positive elements of a home and concentrate on the discrepancies" (I think you meant deficencies) makes alot of sense. Self preservation, it seems, makes it a necessity...as a bunch of you have pointed out. This is very helpful to me...as my tendency (in case you havn't noticed) is to say and think too much rather than just observe and report 'coldly' on the problems I see.

Good, thanks.

Here's a question: How would your inspections be different if liability were NOT an issue?

Here's another question: How do you add a picture to your name?


Originally Posted By: dvalley
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Ed,


Inside, Outside...It doesn't matter. Dirt and wood are termite prone no matter where it is. Especially in the crawl area.

Question #1... Every inspection would be the same, liabilities or not. My client's investment is my concern, Always.

Question #2...Click "Profile" at the top of this page, go the the lower portion of the profile page and click 1 of 2 options of "Uploading your Avatar. Make sure the pic is no bigger than 80 x 80 pixels or 6 kbs.

Good Luck


--
David Valley
MAB Member

Massachusetts Certified Home Inspections
http://www.masscertified.com

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

Originally Posted By: eschwartz
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David,


Yes, I checked the entire perimeter of this crawlspace for wood destroying organisms, especially the area where there was soil/wood contact.


Thanks for the uploading Avatar info.
Ed


Originally Posted By: ccoombs
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Ed


Yes, my engineering and home inspection reports would be different if liability was not an issue. If I see something good or amazing (like level floors in an 80+ year old house) I would say something to that effect to the homeowner or realtor. I would also note it for my file. But I would never make a statement such as yours.

It is unfortunate that our jobs and reports are so effected by liability. But then again, with out liability on someone we would be out of work. You don't think the realtor is hiring you for your good looks do you?


--
Curtis